Ministry Resources

When You Pray

When God made us, He put something in us that reaches out for Him. We realize that we need a power greater than our own to solve our problems, protect us, and meet our needs. Through prayer we learn to reach out to God for help.

Listen to God When You Pray

Has God ever spoken to you?

The Bible records several times when God spoke to different people. He spoke to a boy named Samuel, calling his name in the night and giving him a message for the priest, Eli. He spoke to a woman named Hagar, telling her not to be afraid and showing her where to find water in the desert. Samuel and Hagar both heard God’s voice.

But though God does not always speak out loud as He did to Samuel and Hagar, He always speaks! He has many things to say to those who will listen.

Too often, our prayers are one-sided-we do all the talking! We must learn to pay attention to God and what He might be saying to us when we pray. If we will do this, we will discover how to become partners with Him. He will guide us, use us, and let us have a part in His work.

You belong to God’s family! He has given you the wonderful blessing of His love and He wants to speak to you. In this lesson, you will learn about the ways He may speak and how you can hear Him.

In this lesson you will study . . .

God Wants to Talk With You How God Speaks to You How to Hear God Speak Act on What God Tells You

This lesson will help you . . .

  • Listen for God’s
  • Recognize God’s voice and do what He tells you to do.


Objective 1. Recognize the importance of listening to God in prayer.

There are many Bible passages that tell us to listen to God. Most of them carry the idea that we are not only to hear what He says but also to act on it—do what He tells us.

Isaiah 55:3. “Listen now, my people, and come to me.”

Revelation 3:13. “If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!”

  • Suppose that you are a father. Your son comes running to you for help and tells you about his problem, but he does not listen to a word you say to You want to help but he runs away before you can even answer. How would you feel about it? What would you do? Are your prayers ever like that? Talk with God about it.


Objective 2. Describe how God speaks to us in prayer.

God reveals Himself—speaks to people and lets them know Him, in many ways. He speaks through nature, letting us know something of His wisdom, power, and goodness as we look at the world He has made. Our experience of His care brings us His message, “I love you.” He speaks through circumstances. He speaks through His church and its ministries. Sometimes He speaks through visions, dreams, and messages spoken under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He speaks through the advice and encouragement that we receive from other Christians. He speaks through history and through what is happening in the world today. We hear Him speak silently to our conscience and inner being that we call our spirit. He impresses His thoughts on our mind. And He speaks to us through His written Word.

Isaiah 30:21. If you wander off the road to the right or to the left, you will hear His voice behind you saying, “Here is the road. Follow it.”

Matthew 3:17. Then a voice said from heaven, “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased.”

Acts 2:17. “This is what I will do in the last days, God says: I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams.”

Of course, we must realize that not every thought that comes to our mind when we are praying is the voice of God. Neither is every dream or vision. Some of these are simply our own thoughts. Most dreams are just a mixture of the many impressions stored in our subconscious mind. But God does use these means sometimes to speak to us.

  • Suppose you have a friend who is praying for the Lord to lead him about whether or not to go to a certain city to Every time he thinks about it, he feels very uneasy. What answer is the Lord probably giving him? Which Bible verse above does this illustrate?


Objective 3. Name several ways to hear God speak to us.

When you talk with God about something, expect Him to speak. Listen for the answer. Pay special attention to the first thoughts that come to your mind after you speak to God about a matter. Often these thoughts are from the Lord. They may be the words of a Bible verse and a flash of insight into how they apply to you. Or you may feel a deep peace about a problem you have prayed about. God is assuring you that He has heard and will work things out. Thank Him for it and wait silently to see if He impresses on your mind something that you should do about it.

Pray and listen for God’s voice whenever you read the Bible. And read some in the Bible whenever you have your daily devotions or special times of prayer. You will often find that the promises or instructions about what to do are found in the pages of this wonderful book. Ask God to speak to you through His Word. Sometimes as you think about a verse it will open up a complete message on the subject. This may be for your benefit or it may be a message that God wants you to share with someone. You may want to write down some of the thoughts God gives you. Keep thinking about them. God will use you as His witness or messenger.

The Word of God as we find it in the Bible is our final authority. God will not tell us something that is contrary to His written Word. And so everything that we might take as the voice of God must be examined and judged in the light of what the Bible teaches. This will help us to know the difference between our thoughts and the impressions or message that God gives us.

It is good to consult with mature Christians, too, about what we feel to be the leading of the Lord. Those who have more experience in interpreting the Word of God can help us. We need one another’s help through the church. God often uses a sermon, a testimony, or someone else’s advice to confirm what He has told us personally. This is all part of the Bible pattern. Even the apostles of Jesus consulted one another about the will of God and looked to Him for guidance until they could all recognize clearly what God wanted them to do.

  • Name the two main ways in which God speaks to us when we are


  • What is the final authority by which we must test any revelation or message?


Objective 4. Decide to act on God’s leading in prayer.

When we have heard from the Lord and He has told us what to do, our part is to obey! This is important. Only as we obey God is He really Lord in our lives, the One whom we serve and obey. We honor Jesus as Lord by filling our minds with His teachings and doing what He says. Jesus said:

Luke 6:46. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and yet don’t do what I tell you?”

The Bible emphasizes two things about what we need in order to come to God with confidence and see our prayers answered:

  • Believe in the Lord Jesus
  • Love

1 John 3:19-24. This, then, is how we know that we belong to the truth; this is how we will  be confident in God’s presence. If our conscience condemns us, we know that God is greater than our conscience and that he knows everything. And so, my dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have courage in God’s presence. We receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. What he commands is that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ commanded us. Whoever obeys God’s commands lives in union with God and God lives in union with him.

The Bible gives us the general instructions from God about what we are to do. The Holy Spirit shows us how these apply to our circumstances. He brings to our minds the words we need at that particular moment or they may be for a situation that we will face that day. God is speaking to us; it is our privilege to listen to what He has to say. As we do, He will give us special instructions.

Let’s act on the special instructions that God gives us. They may be something like this: “Be patient and trust Me; I will work it all out.” Or, “Forgive and forget the harsh words of your husband. Show him that you love him by fixing something special for him to eat.” “Remember the quarrel that you had with your neighbor. I want you to go to him and apologize.” “The bill that you owe at Vincent’s store is keeping me from blessing you as much as I want to. The store has given it up as a bad debt, but a Christian pays what he owes. You prayed for my name to be honored. This is how you can honor it.” “Tell Uncle John that I love him and want to help him with his problems.” “Invite the Jones’ to dinner and tell them about my love.”

As we listen and act on such messages from the Lord as those mentioned above, it will be easier and easier for us to recognize His voice in other matters too. As His children we can talk everything over with Him in prayer and have His guidance in all that we do. We need both courage and humility as we learn to act on what God tells us. We have already mentioned that we test impressions or messages by God’s written Word. We also consult with other Christians, perhaps with our pastor or a mature, spiritual Christian who can pray with us and help us know for sure what God’s will is. We must be humble and ready to take advice from others, or correction if we have made a mistake. God wants us to work together in harmony in the church and home. Sometimes, He tells us what to do but not when or how to do it. He leads us step by step. We prepare for what He wants us to do and then recognize the opportunity when it comes.

So, listen to God when you pray. Two-way conversation is a wonderful experience that you can enjoy at any time, wherever you are. Life becomes a series of exciting adventures with God as you follow His instructions. And you will see God do great things in answer to prayer.

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